HAVANA – Cuba has authorized two more airports to receive charter flights from the United States, bringing the total number on the island to seven, local tourism company Havanatur Celimar said.
Airports in the central city of Santa Clara and the eastern city of Manzanillo will provide service to and from the United States, joining Havana, Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba, the firm said in a statement here Friday.
Direct charter flights to new destinations on the island “will facilitate passenger travel” by improving “logistical and operating conditions,” Havanatur Celimar said.
In the United States, airports in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston – as well as San Juan, capital of the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico – have recently been authorized to operate charter flights to Cuba, the firm said.
Previously, Miami, New York and Los Angeles had been the only U.S. cities providing service to the communist-ruled island.
Havanatur Celimar, a subsidiary of international tour operator Havanatur S.A., has handled air travel from the United States since 1978, when flights between the two countries were resumed to allow Cuban Americans to visit their relatives on the communist-ruled island.
An estimated 350,000 Cuban Americans traveled to Cuba last year.
Another 63,000 U.S. citizens not of Cuban descent traveled to the island in 2010, up from 52,500 in 2009 and 41,900 in 2008, despite the decades-old U.S. embargo, according to Cuba’s National Statistics Office.
Those figures are set to rise further after President Barack Obama’s administration approved a loosening of the embargo in January, making it easier for cultural, religious and academic groups to travel to Cuba and allowing all U.S. international airports to run charter flights to the country.
The United States still prohibits regular commercial flights to Cuba and does not allow ordinary American tourists to vacation on the Caribbean island.